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My View: Leaders, volunteers build Habitat’s success

By Tom Graham

With my experience of employment in both the private and public sectors, I have seen all types of leadership. Also, as a volunteer, for the past 43 years here and in New Mexico, I have experienced many leaders in the nonprofit sector.

With my degrees from University at Buffalo’s School of Management and my MBA, I have an academic background in how to manage and lead a business.

Some of the leaders I experienced were smart visionaries who had excellent skills in leading and managing people. I have also experienced leaders who were incompetent and detrimental to the organization’s mission.

The common traits of excellent leadership, for me, are humility, vision, intelligence, great people skills, in-depth understanding of the business, and most importantly, a passion for the mission and the perseverance to implement it.

In Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” she has done extensive research on people who have reached the top of their professions. Their common trait is grit – passion for the mission and perseverance to achieve long-term goals. They have the stamina to achieve their goals when they face setbacks. Through example, leaders who have grit will inspire those in their organization with their relentlessness.

In my role on Habitat for Humanity’s Buffalo Site Selection Committee, as a former Habitat board member, and in supervising the construction of 50 new house foundations, I have witnessed first-rate leadership.

Habitat for Humanity Buffalo builds strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership. Every Habitat Energy Star house is built for a pre-qualified low-income family, who must put in 500 hours of sweat equity. They receive a zero-interest mortgage.

Ron Talboys, and his wife, Margaret, founded Habitat for Humanity Buffalo 31 years ago. Habitat Buffalo is one of the top Habitat affiliates in the U.S. Ron served as president for 30 years, and continues on the board of directors. Ron has installed heating systems in all 300 houses completed by Habitat Buffalo.

Ron is a humble, visionary man with outstanding leadership skills. He is a volunteer with a servant’s heart. In 2010, Ron received the Leadership Buffalo Service Award. A mechanical engineer, he retired from General Motors and answered his calling to found and manage Habitat Buffalo.

It’s easy to follow a leader who is not seeking money, power or prestige and is committed to serving the community and low-income families.

Habitat Buffalo is a complex nonprofit organization with construction, retail, family services and mortgage operations, needing volunteers and fundraising. Before construction on the first house in 1985, Ron took the time to build the infrastructure for the organization.

Habitat for Humanity is a Buffalo treasure that has transformed neighborhoods with homeownership, and dramatically improved the lives of 300 families and 1,263 people. Sixty-five percent of the people we serve are children. For nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteers, great leadership and committed volunteers are the keys to success.

Habitat for Humanity Buffalo brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. I am just one of thousands of volunteers committed to this noble cause.

Many of my fellow Habitat volunteers have had very successful professional careers. In the second half of life, they committed to serving low-income families and rebuilding Buffalo neighborhoods by hammering one nail at a time.

Tom Graham, of East Aurora, is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Buffalo.
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